Matt James, 29, ended up with 24-year-old Rachael Kirkconnell on the Season 25 finale of The Bachelor on Monday night, but their relationship appears to have been short-lived as James revealed the couple split shortly after filming ended.
The relationship was well and truly over after racially insensitive photos of Rachael were released on social media.
Speaking to ABC on After The Final Rose on Monday night he explained the episode made him reconsider how he viewed her.
‘We’re not together,’ James said. ‘It’s heartbreaking. If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand. It’s as simple as that. … You know what was a long time ago? Plantations.’
Season finale: Matt James declined to propose to finalist Rachael Kirkconnell who was embroiled in a racism controversy during the season finale Monday of The Bachelor, but gave her his final rose
James said relationship was well and truly over after racially insensitive photos of Kirkconnell were released on social media
‘You wanna believe that you know your person better than anybody else knows your person. This controversy swirling around who Rachael is and events she might’ve attended, pictures that she liked and people that she’s associated with.
‘I’m trying to be there for her, and I dismissed them as rumors, because that’s what they were to me. You hear things that are heartbreaking and you just pray they’re not true. And then, when you find out that they are it just makes you question everything,’ he added.
James explained that Kirkconnell acknowledged she had more to learn about racial equality.
James explained that Rachael acknowledged she had more to learn about racial equality
‘I wasn’t okay because it was in that moment and the conversation that I had that—Rachael might not understand what it means to be black in America.’
He told her that he ‘couldn’t move forward with their relationship’, and said that it was ‘heartbreaking’ to say goodbye to her.
James said that the controversy – ‘including the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison’ – has been ‘devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly.’
Kirkconnell has repeatedly apologized.
In an Instagram video on Thursday, Kirkconnell responded to the controversy, which includes photos of her attending the antebellum-themed college party, plus allegedly liking and sharing social media posts with the Confederate flag and Qanon conspiracies.
Photos surfaced of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at a plantation-themed party in 2018 as well as a history of liking photos with the Confederate flag
Kirkconnell has subsequently apologized for her previous actions. ‘At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,’ she wrote on Instagram
She had previously posted a written statement earlier this month.
At the start of the seven-and-a-half minute video, Kirkconnell said: ‘the first big step in all of this is White people stepping up and taking accountability. Things will never change if we don’t all work together in working towards this racial progress and this unity that we want.’
Kirkconnell went on to emphasize the importance of having uncomfortable conversations and putting in the work to ‘unlearn’ racism.
‘I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.
‘The learning never stops. We all need to continue to educate ourselves,’ she said, pointing viewers to antiracism resources in her Instagram Story and bio. She included articles titled, ‘How I confronted the truth about my fraternity’s racist history’ and ‘Why your native-inspired Halloween costume devalues our Indigenous cultures.’
Emmanuel Acho hosted After The Final Rose on Monday night after the usual host, Chris Harrison temporarily exited production of the how after he defended Kirkconnell’s social media behavior
Earlier on Monday night’s show, viewers saw James make a break from tradition in deciding not to propose to the graphic designer, despite saying he was ‘in love’ with her.
When it came time for him to pop the question, James explained that he was more concerned with their life together than a rushed engagement.
‘Everything that I came here looking for, I found with you,’ he told the Cumming, Georgia, native. ‘But I’ve seen what rushing into a proposal and marriage can do in my family, and it’s ugly. It’s not something that I want for you. Or for us. That’s why I can’t propose to you today.’
Pictured: Contestant Rachael Kirkconnell on Matt James’s season of The Bachelor
James had often spoken this season of the devastation wrought on him by his parents’ divorce and infidelities, and the memory of it tortured him.
Kirkconnell nodded reassuringly as he added, ‘That doesn’t mean I want to lose you. When I think about the life I wanna live, I think about living that life with you.’
‘I’m in love with you, and I do see you as my wife,’ James said. ‘I see you as the mother of my kids, and I see those kids being crazy. I just wanna make sure my love is enough for you.’
‘Of course it is,’ Kirkconnell said, as they embraced. ‘Of course it is.’
‘There’s one more thing,’ James said, laughing. ‘Rachael, will you accept this rose?’
‘Yes,’ she said, kissing him.
James had made one other unorthodox choice during the episode, saying an early goodbye to fan favorite Michelle Young, 27, an elementary school teacher from Edina, Minnesota.
Instead of waiting until it was time for the proposals, James bade her goodbye after their last date.
The 29-year-old businessman wrestled with his decision until the very end before offering Kirkconnell, 24, his final rose but without a proposal
In a deeply uncomfortable moment, he told Michelle that he’d been having doubts about her, and had tried to push through them unsuccessfully.
‘I just want clarity,’ Michelle said, trying not to cry. ‘Am I supposed to fight for you? Am I not supposed to fight for you? Tell me where you’re at, actually.’
‘I don’t think I can get there with you,’ James shared.
Michelle had already won over James’ mother Patty and older brother John, who had met her earlier in the episode and admired how genuine she was.
Patty loved the teacher’s warmth and the fact that she came from a close-knit family.
‘Talking to you Michelle, I see you’re a sweetheart,’ James’ mom said, wiping her eyes.
When she met Kirkconnell, Patty also saw how taken with her James was, and liked how honest the couple was with each other.
Kirkconnell said she’d known right away that James was the one for her, as he’d prayed over the show’s contestants as the season began.
‘I truly felt it in my soul,’ she told a weeping Patty. ‘I really thought that I was supposed to be here for James, and this was God’s way of putting us together.’
After the women left, Patty grew cynical, and cautioned James to take his time proposing to anyone.
No ring: ‘I’ve seen what rushing into a proposal, a marriage, can do in my family. …And it’s ugly, and it’s not something that I want for you for for us. …And that’s why I can’t propose to you today,’J ames told Kirkconnell
‘People fall in and out of love,’ she warned. ‘Love is not the end-all, be-all.’
John agreed, adding, ‘Don’t feel like you have to jump into making a decision where you’re not ready.’
James’ face fell as he realized his family might not be on board with the idea.
In a confessional, the bachelor said, ‘I’m about to make one of the most important decisions of my life. And the assurance I was looking for in those conversations was replaced with some doubt. This is the final week, and here I am questioning: Am I ready?’
He admitted his fears to show host Chris Harrison, 49, that afternoon.
James said it was the look on Patty’s face that had gotten to him; he realized she was recalling ‘how feelings faded with her and my dad.’
‘The more information that I’m learning about myself and my family and my mom, and what it takes to have a healthy relationship, the more I’m starting to pump the brakes on ‘Is it something that I’m ready to commit to right now?’ he said.
‘That’s a lot to unpack,’ Harrison acknowledged. ‘This is not the guy I was talking to a week ago.’
James said that he’d be ‘silly’ not to consider the perspective his mom had offered him, since she clearly cared about him and didn’t want him to make the same mistakes.
‘I just want to make the right decision,’ James told Harrison. ‘And the right decision for me is taking my time and not doing something that’s what I should do.’
He didn’t want to get engaged yet, he affirmed, saying a premature proposal might torpedo his chance for a lasting relationship.
James had just one date left with each woman to figure out what to do.
On his date with Michelle, the two of them rappelled down the side of a building and snuggled on a sofa below, in front of a firepit.
‘Matt is my person, and we are going to spend a life together,’ Michelle said confidently.
That night, she gave James two basketball jerseys, each of which read ‘World-Changing Warriors,’ with ‘Mr. James’ and ‘Mrs. James’ on the back.
Seeing how much Michelle loved him made everything clear to James: He didn’t feel the same.
With one day left before the proposal, James met with jeweler Neil Lane and picked out a pear-shaped diamond
‘I feel terrible,’ he said privately. ‘But when you care about somebody, you’ve got to be honest with them.’
He told a devastated Michelle that he couldn’t return her feelings.
‘I put it all out on the table,’ Michelle said. ‘That’s all I can do.’
As she left, James second-guessed himself for a second. Chris came out of nowhere to point out how ‘brutal’ the break-up had been.
‘Tough to let an incredible woman like that walk away,’ he mused. ‘Part of you loved her.’
‘Yeah,’ James said, crying. ‘But I wasn’t in love with her.’
James was haunted by knowledge that his parents once loved each other too.
‘I can’t speak for Rachael, but I refuse to put her through what my mom went through,’ he offered. ‘The last thing I want to do is bring someone into a situation that I’m not ready for.’
Harrison then had to tell Kirkconnell that James was feeling ‘lost’ and wanted to cancel their date.
That sent lovestruck Kirkconnell into a tailspin, wondering what she’d done wrong.
With one day left before the proposal, James met with jeweler Neil Lane and picked out a pear-shaped diamond.
He decided to hold on to it, saying, ‘This is more than just a ring. To me, it represents what my father couldn’t give my mother.’
On the day of the expected proposal, James waited for Kirkconnell at a romantic spot in the woods.
She approached him nervously, afraid he was going to break her heart.
‘You know, I pictured this going a certain way,’ she said, as James held her hand. ‘And then yesterday happened, and changed everything.’
James and Kirkconnell then rode off together in a white, horse-drawn carriage
Kirkconnell said she’d hated the idea that James had been hurting in some unknown way, but promised, ‘I’m not gonna run just when it gets tough.’
‘At the end of the day,’ she offered, ‘I just want you to be happy. But I just know with all my heart that I love you, and I will choose you every day from here on out, if you’ll let me.’
James; voice broke as he told Kirkconnell, ‘I came here looking for love, and I didn’t know what it looked like, because it’s not something that I’ve experienced. And everything that I came here looking for, I found with you.’
He told Kirkconnell that he still couldn’t propose to her—not yet—but he didn’t want to lose her, that he loved her and wanted her to be his wife.
‘I love you, too,’ Kirkconnell said, as they embraced and vowed to remain together anyway.
James carried her down a wooded lane to a waiting horse-drawn carriage, which whisked them away.
‘I love you,’ Kirkconnell told James. ‘Love you. Love you.’